Wild Wolf photo, Denali National Park, Alaska.

A female wolf, alpha female of the Grant Creek Pack, in Denali national Park, stands with the head of a small caribou she hunted and killed earlier that day.

Hey Folks,

Recently some of the environmental news has be regarding the delisting of the Gray Wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Hence you can see, I post a picture of a wolf from Denali National Park. As you can see from the image, the wolf was collared by the Park Service biologists, to track and record her movements and to help them learn more about wolves. She’s dead now, apparently killed by wolves in another pack last winter, wandering onto some turf that didn’t belong to her. Such seems to be the way with wolves.

Anyway, onto the Yellowstone Wolf scenario. The wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park, and to Idaho, in the mid-90s, in an effort to bring back some semblance of balance to the natural ecosystems of the region. Well, so the story was told, anyway. Reality is, the reintroduction was really just a con-job, a veiled way of granting continued logging and mining rights to those in power in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). By reintroducing the wolves to the region, the wolves would not be granted “endangered” classification, but were instead listed as an ‘experimental population’, and not give protections afforded under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). That means timber sales and mining leases for the National Forest Service were allowed to go ahead. If the wolves had returned to the region naturally, i.e., on their own, as was happening anyway as wolves moved south from Canada, the population would’ve been granted protection, and their critical habitat would’ve been included. As it was, the logging, et al, went ahead, and the wolves of Yellowstone enjoyed a little protection in the park.

Outside the park, they didn’t get it quite so easy. However, being successful predators, the population did rebound, and they seem to be doing pretty well. So well, in fact, that they were officially delisted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (US F&WS), and their management returned to the state governments, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Those states presented their plans to the federal govt., and, after a deal of haggling, the announcement was made that the wolves wouldn’t be under federal management, but state management from now on. Unless, of course, the wolves don’t remain above a ‘sustainable population’. That population is listed as 10 breeding pairs in each state, which means an overall average population of around 100-150 wolves. If the numbers go below that, the management is returned to the federal govt.

So that’s the history. My problem with all this is the idea of ‘sustainable wildlife management’. Why settle for ‘sustainable’? Isn’t that the ecological equivalent of minimum wage? Why would we want a biotic community that is merely ‘sustainable’? It’s a cold word, it fails to capture any of the beauty, the mystery and the joy of the natural world. I think we lose a lot when we define things this way. Why not a ‘flourishing, bountiful wildlife management program’? I don’t want ‘sustainable’ any more than I want to ‘scrape by’. When I set out to learn to play guitar, I didn’t want to settle for a passing grade. I wanted to do well, and then do do better (turns out I should’ve settled for a Cminus). I don’t want a natural world around me that’s ‘sustainable’.

Secondly, I don’t want ‘wildlife management’ period. It’s interesting to me how so often the folks who advocate ‘wildlife management’ in situations like this (usually conservative, politically right-wing folks – a generalization, I know) are also advocates of a free market, unregulated economy. Well, it seems to me that if a free market economy is best, then a free natural economy ought equally, if not more so, be the best choice. Why pursue regulated natural ecosystems and unregulated market economies? If anything, a free natural economy is at least somewhat feasible, far more so than a free market economy ever will be, simply because we know a natural economy, by definition, can exist without us to mold it along the way. A market economy, by definition, requires human intervention.

So give us a free natural market. In those wild places that remain, give us an unregulated biotic community, allow the ecosystems to show US how they might best flourish and grow. I guarantee they’ll surprise us. And in the meantime, take those damned collars off the animals.



13 thoughts on “Wild Wolf photo, Denali National Park, Alaska.

  1. Beth Lunsford

    I totally agree! Nature has a way of taking care of itself, if we don’t intrude with our man-made great ideas. We are the cause of all extinctions anyway. I just read that the pine beetle disease is taking over a large part of trees out west. And the government has been sitting on this forever trying to figure out what to do. What B.S. red tape!! That is food for many species. I just can’t comprehend why the government is so lax!!!

  2. Beth Lunsford

    P.S. What a beautiful wolf that was!! I’m very sad that she’s dead. It really frightens me the way big government is taking over. And their ‘Land & Wildlife Management Plans’. Their plans to introduce Grizzlies into the Selkirk-Bitteroot will fail unless they open up some wildlife corridors. Otherwise, they will be enclosed in an area with diminishing food options, which will cause more Bear-Human encounters and more than likely many dead bears. I just wish the government would wake up! Where do they find these wildlife biologists? Do the biologists just agree to get a good paycheck? Don’t get me wrong, there are some great wildlife biologists with great ideas & plans, but they usually get run over by the elite.Sorry, I get very angry when I think of all the damage that has been done & will likely continue. My Dad was a wildlife ranger & he taught me early in life how precious a resource nature & all it’s inhabitants were. I know we have all these COMFORTS now, & I have to admit I like them too, to a point. There’s nothing like camping out in the wilderness with friends or alone & enjoying the peace & closeness to nature & where we are truly at home. I think that’s what draws so many people to the wilderness. Only if more people would really get involved to voice their opinions for Big Government to let nature be nature!!!

  3. Mark

    Funny – flourishing was the exact adjective I was thinking of when you questioned ‘sustainable’ even before I read you stating the same thing.

    I didn’t know that about the wolf introductions – it is quite disturbing actually. How many freekin snow jobs are out there that we DON’T know about?

  4. Carl Donohue

    Hey Beth,

    Well, we might not be the cause of all extinctions, but we do our best, no?

    As for wildlife biologists, they’re a quirky bunch, for sure. 🙂 Like everyone else, there’s possibly good and bad ones though. That’s cool that your dad was a wildlife ranger. And yes, camping out is the coolest – nothing like it.

    Hey Mark,

    Well, one of the good things about the internet and such is how possible it becomes to monitor things. And the number of groups around who watch this stuff closely is great. I’m not a big fan of folks like the NRDC and Sierra Club, etc, but it’s good to have environmentalists around who watch the law, and understand what these tricksters are up to. Like in the recent thread about the legislation up here in AK to change wildlife resource management to ‘assets’ – who’d have known the vast consequences of that kind of thing? But the wolf thing was reasonably open.

    “In December of 1990, the issue was handed over to the Wolf Management Committee (WMC). The ten-member committee was comprised of individuals from FWS, NPS, Forest Service, the fish and game departments of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, two environmentalists and two representatives of agriculture and economic interests. The WMC was charged with further research into the issues already mentioned in an effort to resolve the conflicting wolf bills. After lengthy debate, the WMC came to a similar conclusion as had Senator McClure. By an 8-2 vote, the committee recommended that wolves be reintroduced as “experimental, non-essential” populations in designated areas of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Wolf management outside these areas would be assumed by the state fish and game departments. The two environmentalists on the committee had cast the dissenting votes. “


    By the way, you know who was the proponent of the bill for the reintroduction of wolves into Idaho? Jim McClure, from Idaho. You know who he was?

    ‘Direct contributions to Congresspeople: Between 1987 and 1995, Boise Cascade (timber company) contributed $150,000 directly to candidates; $133,500 of that went to Republican candidates. $15,000 went to Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who helped push through the salvage rider and has introduced forest health legislation to suspend environmental laws over the long-term. $10,500 went to Washington Senator Slade Gorton, who was the driving force behind the salvage rider in the Senate. Another $10,000 was divided evenly between Oregons timber senators, Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood. Source: Center for Responsive Politics database, November 1995.

    Senator McClure joins Boise Cascade board: Sen. James McClure was elected to Boise Cascades board of directors one month before his retirement from the Senate in January 1991. Before his retirement,
    he was the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. Between the years of 1973 and 1990, he received consistently low scores for environmental concern from the League of Conservation Voters, averaging only 9% (out of 100%), and scoring 0 for four consecutive years. He supported the nomination of James Watt for Secretary of Interior, consistently opposed funding for EPA and Superfund programs, and actively worked to provide funding for Forest Service roadbuilding. He also
    supported protection for polluters from cleanup requirements and opposed funding for medical expenses for victims of Superfund site pollution. Source: McClure leaves Senate for Boise Cascade, Lewiston Tribune, 12/14/90; quoted in Transitions, Inland Empire Public Lands Council, Aug-Sep 1995; League of Conservation Voters Environmental Scorecards, 1975-1990. ‘

    You wanna know more about “Boise Cascade”? Boise Cascae Rap Sheet’. Just thru 1995. These are bad people, bruh. Very bad people.

    In a Time magazine article, ‘Carl Haywood, legislative assistant to Idaho Republican Senator James McClure, says voters fear that the wolf will be used as a surrogate by environmental extremists, whose real agenda is “getting ranchers, miners, loggers and motorized recreationists off public lands.”

    The real threat posed was the land grab that would occur under the ESA listing, not wolves killing livestock. It wasn’t some kind of middle ground thing they claimed it to be. Wolves were returning on their own. Wolves had been spotted in parts of Idaho and Montana. If recognized as becoming established residents in the US, they’d have been listed under the ESA, and that would’ve meant monumental impact on land rights access for development. So McClure sponsors a bill that proposed bringing 3 breeding pairs of wolves into Idaho, simply so they wouldn’t be afford Endangered Species Protections, and his friends at Boise Cascade, and their ilk, could have their way with the land.



  5. Musa

    I think your view may be a wee bit simplistic, while clearly there may be additional concerns, which are legitimate, the wolves as an experimental population are afforded protection under the ESA, in fact the introduction of the wolves is actually provided for under Section 10(j) of the Act – see below – and at time of introduction afforded most of the protections of a threatened species, the removal of those protections is not based on their staus as 10(j) but rather on the goals established through the introduction process. Once those goals are met, then, similar to a recovery plan, the population is de-listed……

    (j) EXPERIMENTAL POPULATIONS.—(1) For purposes of this subsection,
    the term ‘‘experimental population’’ means any population
    (including any offspring arising solely therefrom) authorized by the
    Secretary for release under paragraph (2), but only when, and at
    such times as, the population is wholly separate geographically
    from nonexperimental populations of the same species.
    (2)(A) The Secretary may authorize the release (and the related
    transportation) of any population (including eggs, propagules,
    or individuals) of an endangered species or a threatened species
    outside the current range of such species if the Secretary determines
    that such release will further the conservation of such species.
    (B) Before authorizing the release of any population under subparagraph
    (A), the Secretary shall by regulation identify the population
    and determine, on the basis of the best available information,
    whether or not such population is essential to the continued
    existence of an endangered species or a threatened species.
    (C) For the purposes of this Act, each member of an experimental
    population shall be treated as a threatened species; except
    (i) solely for purposes of section 7 (other than subsection
    (a)(1) thereof), an experimental population determined under
    subparagraph (B) to be not essential to the continued existence
    of a species shall be treated, except when it occurs in an area
    within the National Wildlife Refuge System or the National
    Park System, as a species proposed to be listed under section
    4; and
    (ii) critical habitat shall not be designated under this Act
    for any experimental population determined under subparagraph
    (B) to be not essential to the continued existence of a
    (3) The Secretary, with respect to population of endangered
    species or threatened species that the Secretary authorized, before
    the date of the enactment of this subsection, for release in geographical
    areas separate from the other populations of such species,
    shall determine by regulation which of such populations are
    an experimental population for the purposes of this subsection and
    January 24, 2002
    259 ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OF 1973 Sec. 11
    whether or not each is essential to the continued existence of an
    endangered species or a threatened species.

  6. Musa

    Further musings from Musa, OK clearly trade-offs were given to the cattle and land interests in order to establish the experimental population of wolves in the GYE. Does this make it a bad program or a wrong program? Unlike most of the laws in our country which require a consideration through cost benefit analysis, the ESA is somewhat unique in that in making a decision to list a species the consideration is to be one based on biology, i.e. the possible economic costs associated with listing were specifically taken out of the mix by Congress. However, this preclusion does not carry over to all other aspects of the ESA only the listing decision, which, considering our market driven society, is a pretty big concession. Additionally, in announcing the de-listing, the FWS did note that it would take affect only once State’s provided guarantees on their management programs, which they subsequently did. At the end of the day, wolves are back in the GYE, thanks to the hard work of many wildlife biologists, concerned citizens, and cattle interests.

  7. Carl Donohue

    Hey Musa,

    Thanks for your input, though I’m not sure exactly what your initial contention is. The piece you posted reiterates my comments that the ‘experimental population’ classification does not afford the same protection (i.e., doesn’t afford ANY )protection of critical habitat:

    “(ii) critical habitat shall not be designated under this Act
    for any experimental population …. “

    Habitat was the primary concern of loggers, ranchers and mining interests. Ranchers, for example, were more concerned about the loss of access they might have to public for grazing their cattle than actual predation losses. The ‘boy who cried wolf’ most loudly in this situation was the collective corporate land-access interests, not a simple young shepherd worried about his flock. All of this is reasonably available information on the web if you seek further details. Citations, see Google is Your New Friend. 🙂

    In other words, the wolves themselves may have been afforded some of the protections under the ESA, but the habitat they need to live within was not. It was snow job, and you know.

    Regarding your ‘further musings’ post; Yes, it was a bad program. Particularly if you happen to be one of the wolves who’ve already been shot within the first few weeks of the delisting. 🙂

    But, seriously, your premise hinges upon one primary platform, and that is that without the so-called ‘hard work of many wildlife biologists, concerned citizens and cattle interests’ the wolves would never have returned. A premise which is most likely incorrect. Wolves were already reinhabitating parts of Montana and Idaho – wolves were established in Glacier National Park in the mid 90’s, before the the GYE reintroduction. Given some time, patience, respect and legislative protections, wolves would once again have roamed the wilderness of the American West, on their own terms. This would’ve had vast repercussions for the timber, cattle and mining interests of the region, and that’s the only reason folks like Jim McClure stepped in early and decided a ‘reintroduction’ was a good idea.

    But a greated subject here might be the ugly anthropocentric viewpoint expressed in your statement. how about the hard work of the wolves, or the elk, or the aspen groves or the mountains or the landscape. Why pat ourselves on the back as though we did the work. Honestly, all the biologists did is capture some wolves and let them go. The other people involved had a lot of meetings and read and wrote reports and had discussions.

    You said:
    ‘Unlike most of the laws in our country which require a consideration through cost benefit analysis, the ESA is somewhat unique in that in making a decision to list a species the consideration is to be one based on biology,’

    I presume you mean ‘market economic cost-benefit’, not merely ‘cost benefit’? Biological cost-benefits are probably even more important, something we tend to overlook. Rather than tout this part of the ESA as some wonderful gesture, why not hold it up as a sign of how ridiculous a culture is that consistently ignores non-financial economies, and ultimately gives sway to certain economic market implications every time a decision is made? ‘Hetch Hetchy’ ring a bell? A reasonably famous Cree Proverb starts includes the line ‘We can’t eat money’. Wise-words, eh?

    Further, I understand there are exceptions to the ESA’s lack of cost-benefit analysis. The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl in the the SW deserts is an example. The infamous ‘God-Squad’ seem to find ways to incorporate (economic) cost-benefit data in their decision-making rationale, no? And how about the recent debacle of the Chukchi Sea oil leases and the still delayed decision on listing the polar bear populations? Or the wolverines not being listed in the US? And on and on.

    You said:
    ‘Additionally, in announcing the de-listing, the FWS did note that it would take affect only once State’s provided guarantees on their management programs, which they subsequently did.’

    Well, that’s an interesting way of phrasing it. Montana and Idaho had plans approved in what, 2003? Wyoming’s plan was rejected, and I believe it’s replacement plan also rejected, and nearly 5 years passed before they ventured a plan that was approved. The word ‘subsequently’ implies a different process, no?

    It’s ironic, is it not, that you might venture to support the ‘hard work of many wildlife biologists, concerned citizens, and cattle interests.’ in the return of the wolf to the GYE, when those same folks are also the ones responsible for the extirpation of the wolves in the Lower 48 States of the USA? 🙂 There lies with those people probably more than a modicum of responsibility, wouldn’t you agree?

    For a fantastic read on this subject (reintroductions, wildlife management, etc), do yourself a favor and check out Charles Bergman’s “Wild Echoes”. He posits that our meddling, such as is the case with wolves in the GYE is a loss in countless ways. I’m all for wolves running around the GYE – it’s great. But the reason why we do things has value, I believe, if for no other reason than that it becomes pattern-setting. The above mentioned examples (Hetch Hetchy, polar bears/Chukchi Sea, wolverines, owls, ad infinitum, follow the pattern to a ‘T’). And the only reason this reintroduction went forward is because it meant a lot of people would lose a lot money (the mining, timber and ranching industry) if it did not. Hardly what I’d call a ‘concession’ or ‘trade-off’ on their part.



  8. Musa

    A lot of your discussion negates a review of Agency interpretation of the Law, ultimately, while Laws are passed by Congress they are interpreted as well as implemented by Federal Agencies through a public rule making process, not perfect but better then some alternatives…currently I think some Agencies see critical habitat as a bit of a red herring because of the interpretation of the Act and take, but what do I know, I’m just happy my distant cousins are back in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada. To wit a recovery plan at some point, given your argument, would have been moot as they were coming back through a natural dispersal anyway, might there populations have grown larger prior to a de-listing sure, but either argument comes to a similar end.
    As to the above, hmmmm someone has a lot of time on their hands in le shack, hmmmm, suddenly another shack dweller comes to mind, a bit Kaczynski-like the above…. Parish the thought….oh an abbreviated yet somewhat impartial discussion may be found at:

  9. Carl Donohue

    Hey Musa

    “Kaczynski-like”???/ Scuze me?

    I read over most of the link you posted. Thanks. We’ll talk about it some more when I get to Anchorage, I’m sure.

    you wrote:
    ‘as they were coming back through a natural dispersal anyway, might there populations have grown larger prior to a de-listing sure, but either argument comes to a similar end’

    Well, for the wolves, perhaps, MAYBE, but not for the countless clearcuts, over-grazed public lands and mining leases that went forward that might (likely would) have otherwise been stopped.



  10. Hand Car Wash :

    i can say that most environmental news today are disaster related, lots of flooding, earthquakes and oil spills”:`

  11. Drip Tray

    certainly, the environmental news theses days are not so good but there are other good news too like opening of new forest reserves .~.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *